Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Shield, "Money Shot": It's my life in a box!

Spoilers for "The Shield" season seven, episode three, coming up just as soon as I take a midterm...

"We all had choices once, and we made them, and now we have to live with them." -Ronnie

Though Vic and Shane are still in the middle of the Armenian mess, "Money Shot" was significantly stronger than the previous two episodes because it focused much more on the characters and how this ever-spiraling fiasco is destroying their relationships with one another.

Vic and Shane were already estranged, and it's a sign of Shane's fear and delusions that he actually thinks he can win back Vic's trust. But their mission to hijack the confiscated guns gave Vic a front row seat to watch the monster he created. Vic is an awful man in so many ways, but there are some lines he simply won't cross -- lines that Shane barely even notices before he leaps to the other side. Vic might kill a cop who's trying to investigate him, but he wouldn't murder a friend who could potentially turn rat to save himself. Vic might help gangbangers get business done, or get over on rival gangs, but he won't put a massive arsenal in the hands of the Armenians without having the first idea what they'd do with them. Shane doesn't see those distinctions, which makes him less of a hypocrite than Vic, but also a much scarier human being.

But it's Ronnie who really drives home how bad things have gotten. While Vic and Shane are busy trying to save their own skins and find a way to appease the Armenians, Ronnie has to do actual police work short-handed, and he literally gets bitten for it. Ronnie's the Strike Team's thinker, and he's not as tied into this weird father-son dynamic between Vic and Shane, and so he can step back and see that there is no way this ends well. As he puts it to Vic at episode's end (in a line I've already quoted in a few other pieces on this season), "Jesus, Vic, everything we do to get out of this s--t just drags us down deeper."

It's always been this way; Vic just doesn't want to see it, because it gets in the way of his own personal narrative as the good cop who's had to make a few bad choices for the greater good. But if he can't step back and see the situation with Ronnie's clear eyes, his pride's going to destroy all of them.

Some other thoughts on "Money Shot":

• After the experience with the money train cash and other shenanigans with the "retirement fund," how could Vic have not anticipated Aceveda snatching up the blackmail box at the first opportunity?

• Speaking of blinding oneself to the truth, how many times does Corrine need to witness Vic with the kids -- in this case, getting way too rough and loud with Cassidy (though Cassidy deserved some kind of chewing-out) -- before she realizes he shouldn't be in their lives any more? I know she tried running away once and failed, and that Vic is a hard man to keep away, and that Corrine is overwhelmed and not doing such a hot job of parenting herself, but so many of their problems -- including Cassidy's recent behavior -- are caused by Vic.

• Dutch gets yet another case with an unexpected sexual twist, but what was most interesting here was seeing Billings go from apathetic to dedicated once the particulars started to come out. He may be lazy 90 percent of the time, but he's not stupid and he has his hot-buttons, and when one of those gets pushed, he can be a useful cop.

• I also loved watching Dutch successfully play Dani and Claudette -- two women who have both made him look very foolish at various points in the series -- into helping each other with their respective weaknesses. A nice growth moment for the Dutch-man.

• Another curtain call of sorts, as Axl the granny porn magnate from last season's premiere returns and once again gets entangled with Julien, Tina and Claudette. His previous appearance is one of many "Shield" stories I'm going to wish I could scrub from my brain.

• Another returning character: Burnout, whose car Vic borrowed for the gun scam, and whom I don't remember from season five's "Man Inside."

What did everybody else think?


R.A. Porter said...

I figure Dutch is only going to be successful in the short-term. I can already see the scenes where Claudette and then Dani chew him out for what he's done. Especially Claudette, as that's a pretty big breach of trust.

afoglia said...

r.a. porter wrote, "I can already see the scenes where Claudette and then Dani chew him out for what he's done. Especially Claudette, as that's a pretty big breach of trust."

Most of the Barn has to be aware about Claudette's health. Didn't she faint on the stairs once? And that was after a long time with many minor medical problems. They probably don't know how bad it is though.

Good episode. Although I don't think Autumn Chiklis was trying to make me laugh at her glare to her father while Corinne was getting taken away. How long until Cassidy starts running to report Vic for child abuse?

Anonymous said...

I don't ever remember a show where the character's scars have stayed with them this way. In Ronnie's case, literally. And they're still dealing with the after-effects of the Money Train hit, over five years later, as well as Shane murdering Lem. It's gotta be hell on new viewers, but I like it.

The thing I love about Billings is that he's lazy and arrogant, but he's almost never wrong. Especially when he's analyzing his colleagues' behavior. The way they cut him loose and brought him back was pretty contrived, so I'm glad they're getting him up to -- for him, anyway -- speed.

UnwantedTouching said...

Finally, I am very, very sad. Knowing that the end is coming plus seeing every single part of Vic's life falling apart is ugly. I'd been able to watch the show over the years as enjoyable escapist entertainment, delighting in watching Vic get in and out of jams weekly. For me the finality of the series (and of Vic's long term prospects for "living happily ever after") has really hit with this episode, the straw breaking the camel's back in the scene where Vic grabs Cassidy and Corinne is so distraught that she begs him to leave. I feel like now I really have the sense now that Vic will be destroyed at the end of the series, and despite his faults and evil doings over the life of the series, there are redeeming aspects to Vic where he may not totally deserve what is about to come to him.

Unknown said...

Am I the only one who didn't buy Vic's "understanding" speech of why Shane killed Lem? He's got Shane's only leverage in his hands now, and Shane's so desperate for Vic's forgiveness and acceptance that he'll be easier to keep a leash on.

Until it's time to kill him.

However, it also seemed like Mara probably read everything in that file, too. And lord knows she couldn't keep her mouth shut if her life depended on it.

I'm loving how they've developed Ronnie over the last two seasons.

R.A. Porter said...

@josh, you weren't supposed to buy Vic's speech about understanding. Only Shane was supposed to buy that speech. Vic's decided the best way to keep Shane under his thumb moving forward is to treat him as if all is well.

Friends close, enemies closer.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who didn't buy Vic's "understanding" speech of why Shane killed Lem?

It seemed clear we weren't supposed to. They need Shane right now. Once he's served his purpose, I would not want to be him. (I wouldn't anyway, but...)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, Vic was totally playing Shane -- you could see how disgusted he was with himself as soon as Shane left the clubhouse.

Anonymous said...

Shane had two different stories about his blackmail file -- he told Vic he was giving him the only copy, and Mara that there was another copy -- and I'm really not sure which version to believe.

On one hand, he needs to buy Vic's trust, but seems smart enough to have some insurance. At the same time, I could see him giving Vic the only copy, feeling it's more important to get on Mackey's good side than keep his wife safe and happy.

As for Billings, I'm sure the facts of the rape case probably got him mad, but I was thinking he sprung into action after hearing Claudette praise "the team's" work.

R.A. Porter said...

@tom, if I recall correctly, Billings has a teenage daughter.

Anonymous said...

"tom, if I recall correctly, Billings has a teenage daughter."

I believe you're right. Either way, it's nice to see him grow as a character.

dronkmunk said...

My drug dealer, who is also an avid watcher of the show, mentioned that she thinks that Ronnie is going to kill Vic. "Possible," I thought. But something would have to happen to piss Ronnie off as a result of Vic's actions.

Add his getting bitten by the Dog, to having the side of his face melted by armadillo in season 2, and his motivation to do such a thing starts to become apparent. He isn't quite at the point yet, but if this continues (for instance, if Ronnie's family gets put in jeopardy, if he even has a family)I could see Ronnie being the one putting a final nail in Vic's coffin.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Ronnie might not do what Lem wouldn't, and turn state's evidence.

I also would like to see Michael Chiklis and Jon Hamm switch roles for a week.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I also would like to see Michael Chiklis and Jon Hamm switch roles for a week.

I think Hamm is actually more of the conception Shawn Ryan originally had for the role. Obviously, Chiklis owned Macky from the minute he came in to read the part, but Shawn has said that when he wrote the script as a writing sample, he had a "Harrison Ford type" as his conception of Vic, which would have made it all the more shocking that he was such a dirty cop.

Brandon Kosto said...

Besides Hamm I wonder what other "Harrison Ford types" could play Vic. Nathan Fillion could certainly bring the handsome, charming rogue element but I do wonder if he handle the more nastier aspects of Vic's character.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to mention how nice Officer Tina (Paula Garces) looked in this episode! She should really be featured more often.

Anonymous said...

Anthony Foglia said...

How long until Cassidy starts running to report Vic for child abuse?

Or better yet, Autumn can report Michael for making her embarrass herself with her acting on TV every week.

Anonymous said...

Cassidy is enormous. She looks exactly like Vic Mackey in drag. It's too bad she has such an aversion to her father's profession. I can easily picture that kid busting heads and rounding up gang-bangers. She definitely has the physique to be a cop or a marine, moreso than someone like sexpot Tina. Cassidy must be over 6ft tall by now.

I was worried for Corrine. A huge strapping teenager like Cassidy pushing her around like that... I see potential for parent abuse. Corrine is a small woman. I don't think she could defend herself against a giantess like Cassidy.

The excessive focus on Vic's family this season seems to suggest that his final fate will involve them somehow.

The "reorientation rape" storyline was extremely disturbing. Unfortunately, it only served to remind us that Julian - the formerly gay character - was also "reorientated" through religion and forcing himself to have sex with women. I wish they had brought Julian into this case somehow. The parallels were sad and eerie.

Anonymous said...

I was really struck by Vic's comment to Corinne about Cassidy, when he said "We raised her better than that!" Really?? It just reinforces that Vic sees himself through rose colored glasses as a moral being and a good father. And I think he gets scared when he actually sees some of himself in Cassidy. I'm glad they are going this route with Cassidy; if she was more "normal" I think we've looked at her for a number of seasons and thought "this kid is gonna need serious therapy one day".